Who were the other two men on the crosses?


 

Who were the other men on the crosses with Jesus?

They were us.  You and me.

They were everyone who has ever heard the name of Jesus.

It’s a simple story.  
Quite short.  Twelve verses.  In Luke’s Gospel.
And Yet – it tells the story of every one of us.

Lk 23:32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Lk 23:35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”
Lk 23:36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
Lk 23:38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Lk 23:39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
Lk 23:40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Lk 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’”
Lk 23:43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Introduction

I’ve heard different things about what these two men did.  Some say they were common thieves.  Others that they were guilty of murder.  
But if we read the verses, all it says is they were criminals.

Looking up the Greek word translated as criminal, we find

κακοῦργος [kakourgos /kak·oor·gos/] adj. From 2556 and the base of 2041; TDNT 3:484; TDNTA 391; GK 2806; Four occurrences; AV translates as “malefactor” three times, and “evil doer” once. 1 a malefactor.  ((Strong, J. (2001). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.))

Looking up malefactor, we find –  Malefactor | Define Malefactor at Dictionary.com

1.  a person who violates the law; criminal.
2.  a person who does harm or evil, especially toward another.

So it could be either a murderer or a thief.

One other useful piece of information has to do with why people were crucified – as opposed to some other form of punishment by death.  It had to do with their low social status.

Finally – notice there was one man on Jesus’ right, and the other in His left.

With these things in mind – let’s look deeper into how these two men can represent all of us.

One on the right – the other on the left

The Sheep and the Goats

Mt 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Mt 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Mt 25:37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
Mt 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Mt 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
Mt 25:44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
Mt 25:45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Mt 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

One on the right.  The other on the left.

The sheep on his right.  The goats on his left.

The ones on the right are given the inheritance of the kingdom prepared for them.  The ones on the left are told to depart.

Low social status

Righteousness Through Faith

Ro 3:21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

We all fall short of the glory of God.  

Compared to Him – we are all of an incredibly low “social” status.  Whether we are a thief, a murderer, or something else – we compared to Jesus, we are no different from each other.

The words of the men

Mt 12:33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Some will be acquitted by their words.  Others will be condemned.

 

Amazing as it may seem, these two men really do stand for each of us.

Let me tie this together, in case you haven’t quite seen it.

I think the right & the left – as well as the low social status should be obvious enough.

The words though – they also cover all of us.

“Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

This is the person who knows who Jesus is – and has rejected Him.  Pretty straightforward.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’”  

 This is the one that’s maybe not so obvious.

I never really thought much about this until yesterday.  I’m recovering from pneumonia right now, so I have lot’s of time to think, pray and be alone with God.  Yesterday, the question of these two men came to mind.  That they represent us.  All of us.  At least, all of us who have heard of Jesus.  Whether we believe Him – or even believe In Him.

The man who said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’” is told “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” 

But I think there are some “mysteries” behind Jesus response.

First – we don’t know what this person did.  But in order to get the response that he did from Jesus – there had to me at least a mustard seed size faith within the man.  Remember – we looked at how words could lead to either acquittal or salvation.  But also consider –

Mk 16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

There is also belief – faith.  The words by themselves don’t necessarily mean anything.  It’s what is in the heart that matters.  Jesus knew what was in this man’s heart when he asked to be remembered.  Implicit in this remembrance was forgiveness.

Someone saying these same words, while believing in their hearts that Jesus wouldn’t save them – maybe because what they did was too bad to be forgiven – would have the words, but not the faith.  Would they have received the same answer?  I doubt it.

And maybe that’s why the Bible doesn’t say what these men did.  It certainly would have been easy enough to put it in.  

The problem then would be that a line of sorts would have been drawn in the sand.  Anything worse than what the forgiven man did, might have been considered unforgivable.  For instance – if he was identified as a thief, some would say that a murderer would not have received the same response from Jesus.  Had he been identified as a murderer – some would say that a mass murderer would not have received the same response.  And on and on.  No matter what was identified – someone would come up with something worse – and say that Jesus would not have forgiven that person.

But that doesn’t seem likely.  Jesus would have forgiven the person, as long as the tiniest little bit of faith was there, no matter what they did.  Notice again the first few verses –

Lk 23:32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Jesus forgave even the people who were killing Him.  In the middle of the verses about the two men being crucified with Him.  These verses didn’t have to be here.  He could have forgiven the people killing Him – and then the verses about the other two men could have been included.  But it wasn’t written that way.

As Christians – we say we believe that Scripture id breathed by the Holy Spirit.  If we truly believe that, then we also believe The Holy Spirit wanted the verses about forgiving His killers included within the verses about the other two men.  Indicating that it didn’t matter what the other two men did.  If Jesus would forgive His own killers – He would forgive anything.  With apologies to those who believe in the 7 deadly / unforgivable sins – I believe these verses say otherwise.

Mt 12:30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Conclusion

So there we have it.

There are really only two choices.

Right or left.

Sheep or goats.

Faith or not.

And these two men really do represent everyone.

One is obvious.  The one who mocks Jesus.

The other – not so obvious.  As it really is in life.  The words are there for many people.  But is the faith?   We cannot know.  But Jesus can – and does.

 


 

Consider these verses about faith –

The first from The Healing of the Boy With an Evil Spirit

Mk 9:23 “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Mk 9:24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

And even the apostles in Sin, Faith, Duty

Lk 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
Lk 17:6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”

 

How is your faith?

For me?  Lord – I do have faith.  Help me overcome my lack of faith!

 

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